Behold the Kickmen

Dan Marshall of Size Five Games (Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please!) has put out Behold the Kickmen. It is loosely about the sport of football (Soccer in our state of America). In which you can play a single-player story mode or quick games of something very clearly inspired by football, if you had never watched a game or bothered to learn about it.

I’ve spent a little bit of time with Behold the Kickmen, about 40 minutes, and it is definitely a thing where you can play a game of sport and also manage a team if you so enjoy. It’s a little unpolished. Pausing the game gives you no options besides quitting the match and doesn’t display the control scheme, you can’t control the menus with your gamepad, and there is no multiplayer, but it’s also incredibly cheap.

Behold the Kickmen is only $4 for Windows or Mac on Steam, (Linux version in beta) so you don’t have much to lose if it is at all interesting to you.

Valve Games Were Vulnerable to Software Exploits When Your Character Died

The One Up Security firm, who must be very new because this is their only published research article and their domain name appears to have been registered about 8 months ago, has released information on a vulnerability that Valve patched in their Source engine back in June.

It’s an amusing vulnerability because the exploitation of it occurs when your character dies on a game server, and your character model’s ragdoll is replaced with an exploitative payload that the researcher was able to exploit because certain security flags weren’t set on portions of Steam. This is what you see in action when you watch One Up Security’s video embedded above.

Telling Lies

Sam Barlow of the incredible Her Story FMV game is working on something new, it’s called Telling Lies. Todd Spangler has the exclusive over at Variety:

“Telling Lies” is a “spiritual follow-up” to “Her Story,” he said, but will have a completely new story with more characters and locations. Shooting will likely begin at the end of 2017 or early 2018.

Barlow is tight-lipped on what, exactly, “Telling Lies” is about but said it’s in the vein of a political thriller with 3-4 key characters. A movie he’s watched extensively for reference is Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 mystery thriller “The Conversation,” starring Gene Hackman.

“Imagine Steve McQueen’s ‘Shame’ mashed up with ‘The Conversation,’” Barlow said. For movies, he said, the 1970s “were such a golden age exploring the intersection of government, society and individuals.”

Indie Video Game Stores in 2017

Matt Leone of Polygon has this incredibly in-depth feature on the stories of video game stores that are still operating in 2017:

…we recently dug into the specific costs of running an independent game store in the U.S., and talked to more than 15 store owners and managers about the process. From telling stories of Amazon selling games for less than wholesale distributors, to opening their books and showing the costs of everything from insurance to paper towels, they paint a picture of an industry doing its best to keep its head above water.

It’s one of those things that I imagine a lot of people have thought about doing, and then dismissed. The photography in this article, by Jonathan Castillo, is just as good as the writing. This is probably the best game-related article I’ve read all year, strong contender for SOTY.

The Best iPad

Before this year’s WWDC, and especially before the iPad Cheap was revealed, Apple’s lineup of iPads was super confusing. Which was the “best” depending very much on which iPad features you valued more than others, but it wasn’t clear at all if you went down the lineup.

New readers may notice that I round the prices of each iPad up because they are deceptively priced a dollar lower than the actual pre-tax cost. Apple is nice enough to not do the penny-lower scam ($1.99) that almost everyone else does with their pricing, It would be good if Apple would also drop this bullshit that a $399 object is closer to $300 than $400, so I’ve gone ahead and fixed that for you.

Here were your options if you were trying to pick out an iPad in January:

  • iPad Air 2 at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128 GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($400) or 128GB ($500) wifi only
    • 32GB ($530) and 128GB ($630) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 2 at 7.9″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A8 processor
    • 1GB RAM
    • 32GB ($270)  wifi only
    • 32GB ($400) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

There were other differences between the 9.7″ and 12.9 inch iPads that made the 12.9″ seem outdated as well. It was that true tone and wide color gamut that made the 9.7″ preferable in many respects to the 12.9. Except the 12.9″ also had twice as much memory as the 9.7″. Then, in March, Apple introduced the new iPad Cheap and eliminated the iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 2, and a few memory configurations, from the lineup. This made the situation a little less confusing for the non-Pro models but was the first to do away with the notion that a bigger screen is more expensive.

Here’s the iPad lineup on March 31st:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A9X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($800) 128GB ($900) 256GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 128GB ($1030) and 256GB ($1130) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 9.7″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • A9X processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 32GB ($600) 128GB ($700) 256GB ($800) wifi only
    • 32GB ($730) 128GB ($830) 256GB ($930) with cellular

Anyone that bought a 12.9″ iPad Pro would have ended up with something missing features unless they waited until June for WWDC 2017 when the 9.7″ iPad Pro was discontinued in favor of an upgraded 10.5″ iPad Pro and the 12.9″ finally got display technology feature parity.

Here’s the roster of iPads today, post-WWDC:

  • iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A9 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($800) 256GB ($900) wifi only 512GB ($1100)
    • 64GB ($930) 256GB ($1030) and 512GB ($1230) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 10.5″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector (for hardware accessories like Apple’s stylus, the Pencil)
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($750) 512GB ($950) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($880) 512GB ($1080) with cellular

All of the 32GB options were dismissed in the Pro line. Apple added 64GB and 512GB options to replace 32GB and 128GB, respectively. Prices were raised for the 10.5″ memory storage tiers versus the old 9.7″ iPad Pro. The final Pro storage tier jump goes from $100 to $200.

The 9.7″ iPad Pro also had half the RAM of the 10.5″ and 12.9″ models. The 12.9″ also had USB 3.0 transfer speeds over the lightning connector if you had the right adapter. The 10.5″ finally got that feature as well as the fast charging option from the 29 watt power adapter that is designed for USB-C MacBook laptops.

Both Pro’s also got upgraded A10X processors and that new ProMotion display technology that should be familiar to any gamer as Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s Freesync variable framerate technologies to reduce tearing in games. Tearing is when you’re playing a game with fast motion and you see the image split with a horizontal line for a very brief period of time because the computer couldn’t render the game fast enough. In Apple’s case these variable framerates now mean that movies look better in motion, animations throughout the operating system and apps are smoother and clearer, and drawing with Apple’s Pencil stylus can now get the display up to 120Hz, which should be super responsive. Apple is typically not very interested in appealing to game players or developers, and it still isn’t clear to me yet if there is any benefit to games with Apple’s ProMotion variable framerate solution.

If a regular person had been trying to figure out which iPad to purchase, and was trying to follow along with the news, they might have been extremely confused until after WWDC.

At this point it should be clear that the Pro line is “the best” in terms of computing power and display technology, and if you’re interested in replacing a laptop then you know to get a Pro.

One final issue that might put someone over the edge to the Pro is that both models have four speakers instead of the two on the iPad Cheap and Mini. Otherwise, it’s not as confusing anymore to pick a model of iPad out unless you’re interested in the iPad Cheap or the Mini 4. The Mini hasn’t been updated with new technology since 2015.

The good news, for almost every iPad that can run it, is that iOS 11 is going to be a huge update with big multitasking features for anyone trying to get work done.

I’m increasingly curious about how those new features will translate to my old 2nd generation iPad Mini, I suspect the answer will be almost not at all since it didn’t receive many of the split-view features that newer iPads have.

This Play Has Everything

 

Speaking of monkeys, Jesse David Fox has a great interview with some of the people behind the fantastic Planet of the Apes musical episode from way back in the Simpsons’ 7th season. The Simpsons’ musical composer, Alf Clausen, discusses how he tries to bring some seriousness to the show:

I hearken back to something that was said to me a long time ago by a trumpet player who worked in the studios. He said to me, “You can’t vaudeville vaudeville.” The reason for that particular directive is that he said if you wanted to make something funny, you don’t use funny music to go there. You use music that is extremely serious.

Clausen expands on that with his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross:

GROSS: When you’re writing a song parody are you trying to write it as if it were serious, as if it were really a Broadway show or really a movie theme?

CLAUSEN: Absolutely, not only in creating the songs, but in creating the underscore music for “The Simpsons” and trying to give credence to the emotional content of what the characters are saying. I’m always extremely serious, and I think what happens is that the the listener and observer gets pulled into the situation more effectively once the music is serious, so that when the gag finally comes, the gag then becomes twice as funny.

I think about the musical underscore for shows a lot, how they ham it up during emotional moments to further draw you in. It works.

Fresh Air recently recompiled their old interviews with Simpsons creators and you can read the rest of that episode’s transcript, but really you should listen to it. Here’s the Overcast link for the episode.

 

Planet of the Apes 12: Naruto vs Slater

Sarah Jeong (now of The Verge) contributed this article to Vice’s Motherboard. It’s about the continuing legal struggle for PETA to represent the monkey that took a selfie in PETA’s suit against a photographer who has my surname and gain copyright protection for works created by animals. It may also help animals, and people, in other fields:

Well, it’s not really about monkey copyrights, actually. It’s about Cetacean and about making precedent that will let PETA sue on behalf of animals in more serious matters. And in PETA’s defense, the relevant case law is kind of not great. One of the cases that the judges mentioned during oral argument is a case about a “coalition of clergy, lawyers, and professors” trying to bring a lawsuit on behalf of Guantanamo detainees. It’s not all monkeys and selfies here, there really are larger ramifications to the principles that are being hammered out

The Shinchonji Cult

PRI’s The World continues to have some pretty fascinating stories I wouldn’t otherwise come across. Recently The World told us about colorful taxi cab ceilings in India. Now, their Matthew Bell is covering this crossover between two of my favorite subjects, South Korea and doomsday cults, in Shinchonji:

Lee, the director of the Bible study center I visited, says she has been a member of Shinchonji since 1999.

“We offer a very deep course of study into the Bible,” she says. “This is different than other churches.”

“The students would like to come to class seven days a week, but we limit it to five,” Lee says.

“Shinchonji members are very successful in life,” Lee adds. And then, without being asked about it specifically, she says that some members of Shinchonji have had problems maintaining relationships with their families and keeping up with their careers. But she says such cases are the exception.

Throughout my visit to the study center, a young Korean man in a jacket and glasses points a digital camera at me as I do interviews and observe the scene. When I say his filming is making me uncomfortable, he puts the camera down for a few minutes. Then, he goes back to filming me.

Nine Inch Nails Collaborated With Llamasoft’s Jeff Minter and Twin Peaks

This is frankly insane, there’s a new video out from Nine Inch Nails and it’s got footage from Llamasoft’s Polybius.  Jeff Minter is Llamasoft and he has made many other trippy and intense action arcade games, most people would know him for Tempest 2000. Although Polybius is only available on the PlayStation 4, a Windows version is in development. The track in the collaboration video above, Less Than, will be on a new EP called Add Violence on the 21st of July. Less Than is available right now on Apple Music.

This is after Nine Inch Nails also appeared on the renewed Twin Peaks: